Clay Miller, left, and Jeff Payne share a space Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, in the Richardson-Bass Building at the Fort Worth Stock Show. Terry Evans Special to the Star-Telegram
Clay Miller, left, and Jeff Payne share a space Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, in the Richardson-Bass Building at the Fort Worth Stock Show. Terry Evans Special to the Star-Telegram

Fort Worth Stock Show

Stock Show attendance lags, but shoppers did their part to keep vendors smiling

Special to the Star-Telegram

February 04, 2017 11:56 AM

FORT WORTH

Attendance was down at this year’s Fort Worth Stock Show, but that doesn’t mean those visiting the Will Rogers Memorial Center didn’t open their wallets.

“I’m hearing mixed reports” on sales, said Ashley Smith, the Stock Show’s commercial exhibit manager. “Some say it’s the best show they’ve had. A few have said they’re down a little.”

After two record-setting years, attendance at the 121st Fort Worth Stock Show slipped a bit.

The tally for the 23-day show, which ended Saturday, was 1,219,300. That is 38,600 fewer visitors than 2016 (1,257,900), and 29,200 fewer than 2015 (1,248,500).

Toni Hartwick, of Mayville, Mich., enjoyed booming business at Wild Rags by Lois, the only shop in the Burnett Building. In a corner space that longtime Stock Show participants still call the Blue Room, Wild Rags keeps an inventory dictated by horse owners who pass by as they ride or walk horses from their stalls to the Will Rogers Coliseum.

New owners dramatically changed the popular shop’s layout this year, moving the sales counter to the back and creating a more open display area. The Wild Rags — silk scarves treasured by riders of both genders — remain, as do tack and some veterinary and grooming supplies.

“Wild Rags went well because they keep necks warm,” Hartwick said. “They’re beautiful, and the riders match them to show shirts and outfits. People will ride up and ask for certain colors. We’ll take their credit cards and do the sale, and bring everything back to them so they don’t have to get off their horses.”

Holsters were hot at Huckleberry Gun Leather, too, said owner Roger Pierce, of DeSoto.

“We did just a little bit under last year,” Pierce said. “But back then we were riding the open carry law.”

He was referring to the Texas Legislature’s passage in May 2015 of a law that allows licensed handgun owners to wear firearms that can be seen.

“Now sales are about the same as they were the year before open carry,” Pierce said. “If attendance was down by 30,000, that’s 1,000 fewer people per day, so I would expect a little drop in sales.”

Back over in the Richardson-Bass Building, Byron Cash, of Durham, N.C., said business at his boot shine stand was a lot slower than last year.

“I don’t know what happened,” Cash said. “It’s just been really slow.”

But Rondell Stevenson, of Weatherford, said he’s been as busy as ever at his stand in the Amon Carter Exhibits Hall.

“I’ve been here two or three years,” Stevenson said. “But I shined shoes for 27 years between Cattle Barns 2 and 3. It’s been about the same this year.”

Jeff Payne, of Glen Rose, said business at Payne Bits & Spurs was twice as good as last year. This was his sixth year at the Stock Show, but he’s had a sales booth at the National Cutting Horse Futurity for 25 years.

“I’m the only custom bit and spur maker at the Stock Show,” Payne said. “People who bought stuff last year came back this year to get more.”

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brandon@brandonwade.com

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